Talking about Race

Every year the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti join together for their community read programs. This year I am on the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Reads Outreach Committee. The committee is made up of librarians from the public libraries and local academic libraries, booksellers, individuals from area nonprofits, and community organizers. Our job is to market the community read, and to promote events related to the read. It takes a lot of people to create the list of potential books for the community read, the final list, and then market the read. Every year a non-fiction book is chosen for the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Read based on the theme of the University of Michigan’s winter theme semester. Piggybacking on the theme semester allows the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Reads program to share events with the University of Michigan. The theme semesters are broad themes that can be incorporated across the disciplines. Past themes have included language, astronomy, and water. This winter’s theme semester is race.

A selection committee narrowed down a long list of titles to three finalists; Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Paul Kivel’s Uprooting Racism: How White People can Work for Social Justice. The New Jim Crow was chosen as the 2013 Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Read.

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What We’re Reading

On the first Friday of each month, we share what we’re reading, which may include everything from magazines and blogs to novels and books for work or pleasure.

This month, I giggled my way through Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. This collection of essays is a delightful treat, full of love and laughter. Scottoline and Serritella, mother and daughter, write stories of everyday life that are charming, witty, and insightful. Their voices are warm, and reading them feels like you are sitting down and chatting with a good friend.  This is their fourth collaboration together, and each one is simply a joy!– Heather

A dear friend asked me to join her book club. In the past and for many good reasons, I have made it a rule to politely decline all invitations to join book clubs. For this woman, however, I will break rules, which is why I am now plodding through Arcadia by Lauren Groff. I badly want to love this novel, a lyrical tale told in three bumpy acts. Narrated by Bit, the first child born on a hippie commune in upstate New York, the story is two parts coming-of-age and one part dystopian fantasy. The prose is lush, but the characters don’t seem round to me. Nevertheless, I better finish it by Sunday! –Amy

One of my book clubs read God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy this month. It’s a heartbreaking novel. Each character in the novel has a deep love for someone, but the love is barred by tragedy. The story jumps from the present to the past, so you know the outcome of the tragedies before you know how the tragedies happen. It’s lovely and sad, with moments of childlike humor. During our discussion we listened to the BBC’s World Book Club interview with Arundhati Roy. This is a book that you need to talk about after reading. –Emily